A Unique Gift – Chapter 15



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Another Life – Chapter 15

I was supposed to meet Ron and Laurie at the Lion. My cousin wasn’t there yet. On the plus side, that gave me a chance to talk to Laurie. I started by apologizing again for Sam’s latest gaffes.

She had started phoning the apartment repeatedly, trying to reach me. Unfortunately, nine times out of ten, I wasn’t there – and one of my roommates had to answer the phone. Rose was assiduous about taking a message for me. She would leave a little note on my desk.

Laurie was 50/50. She would scribble me a message, if there was any paper handy, and she could find a pencil. Twice she left me cryptic messages on the wall. If not, she might remember three days later. Ronnie would chat with Sam, but couldn’t be bothered to let me know that she had called.

– “Why does he always ask about Tanya?” Sam wanted to know.

I told her my schedule – school and work – but she got impatient, and called even though she knew I wasn’t home. I apologized to Rose, and to Laurie.

– “Don’t worry about it.” she said.

– “I do worry about it.” I admitted. “I like Sam, and … there are lots of good things about her.”

– “Great sex?” Laurie wasn’t shy; that much I already knew.

– “Yeah. But … she’s completely different when it’s just the two of us, you know? Not so goofy, and she doesn’t do that annoying giggle …”

– “That’s messed up.” said Laurie. “Even when she’s at home?”

– “It’s worse when her sisters are around.”

– “I dunno, Joe. Not sure you can fix that one.”

– “What do you mean?”

– “Men’s fatal delusion. Guys think they can fix things. You’re a mechanic, right? Men think that if there’s a problem, you just get the right tool, and you fix it. But people aren’t like cars, or toilets. Well, some people are like toilets, I suppose …”

– “They deserve to be shit on?” I guessed.

– “Right. You’ve got a wounded bird, there, Joe. I don’t mean a mother bird, dragging her wing to lure you away from her nest. I mean an injured bird, with a broken wing, or something.”

– “I’m listening.”

– “Women think they can change their man. He cheated on his last girlfriend, but he won’t cheat on me. He hit me – but if I love him enough, I can change him.”

“Guys figure they can fix things. She has issues? I’ll be there for her, and we’ll turn this thing around.”

– “I don’t know, Laurie. That doesn’t sound like -”

– “Do you feel guilty, Joe? Like you should be doing something to make everything better?”

I couldn’t answer that. It was a little too close to where my head was at lately.

– “You’re a nice guy, Joe.” said Laurie. “Unlike that cousin of yours, who’s 45 minutes late. And Sam seems nice – when she’s not … you know, saying something bizarre.”

We ordered a second round.

“Do you know my sister? Jen?” asked Laurie.

– “I think I met her at the Christmas party. Last year’s.”

– “That’s right. Well, Jen’s got … issues. She keeps them under wraps pretty well. She’ll find a guy, fuck him, and get him hooked. Once he’s committed – that’s when she dumps all of her phobias and anxieties on him.”

“She makes the guy feel guilty if he doesn’t cater to her, and try to help her out.”

– “The guy doesn’t dump her?”

– “Once or twice. Jen’s pretty good at picking out the nice guys. You’d be surprised how often they stick around – and for how long.”

– “That doesn’t sound like Sam.” I said. “But I appreciate you worrying about me.” Laurie was just guessing, and trying to warn me to be careful. She was wide of the mark, though.

Except that … Sam had said that I was nicer to her than anybody else had ever been.

Laurie changed the subject – sort of.

– “So did you talk about this with your friend Eli?” I had told my roommates about Eli, and his uncompromising approach to the truth. They hadn’t met him yet, but they all found my stories about him incredibly funny.

– “Not really – none of the details. Three guesses what he said.”

– “Oh man.” laughed Laurie. “Tell the truth? How’s that working out for him?”

– “He’s still single, if that’s what you mean. And he has a mean bruise on the side of his face.”

Laurie and I had a few laughs. Ronnie never did show up that night.




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Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 16

We both laughed. I had spent almost all of my freshman year with a mad crush on Sheila. She resolutely kept me at arm’s length, despite the obvious attraction between us. Well, obvious to me, at least. Once I accepted her decision, we became solid friends. We could flirt, and laugh at ourselves.

“You’re good.” I said.

– “C’mon: tell me one secret. I’ll tell you one in return.”

– “Deal.” I said. This is exactly how these games work. You have to trade information to gain information. But which clue to give her? “How about this: there was a plot afoot, to rescue Redbeard.”

Sheila made a face. “Already knew that. Were you a member of Redbeard’s crew?” she asked, suddenly.

Shit – could she be the Falcon? I didn’t know whether to trust her or not. So I answered a question with a question with a question. “Are you?”

– “I asked you first. Oh, c’mon. Give me something, Colin.”

– “I know one of the letters in the code for the treasure map.” I said.

– “So do I.” she admitted. “But I’m not sure if I’m ready to trade that.”

– “OK.” I told her. “Here you go: The Falcon is aboard. One of Redbeard’s old lieutenants.”

Sheila mulled that over for a moment. “That’s fair. Are you the Falcon?”

– “No. Are you?”

– “No.” she laughed. “All right, you actually gave me something. Not much, but something. You can have this in return: the Scar is also aboard.”

I decided to play dumb. “Who is the Scar?”

– “You don’t know? The Scar is another of Redbeard’s lieutenants.” she said.

– “Oh. So we have a ship full of his former crew. Are you the Scar?” I asked.

– “That’s a separate question.” she replied, with a grin. “What will give me for the answer?”

– “A kiss?” What the hell; it was worth a shot.

Sheila laughed. “Nice try. You can get me a drink, though.” She held up her empty wine glass.

– “Am I allowed to go upstairs yet? I don’t think it’s been half an hour yet.”

– “So crack open another bottle.” she said. “They’re right behind you.”

We drank some more, and she fenced with me, alternating between flirty and coy. We also discussed the other players, and aired our suspicions of who was the most likely murderer. After a while, I decided to gamble. I showed her the pirate recognition signal.

– “What is that for?” she asked, intrigued.

– “The recognition signal for Redbeard’s crew. It’s how they’ll know each other.”

– “So you’re one of them?” said Sheila.

– “Craig showed it to me earlier, and told me what it was.” I answered. This way, Sheila could not be sure: she might think that I was not a pirate. But I could tell that she was very pleased with that piece of information. For one thing, she asked me to show her the signal again.

– “Alright, then. I’ll give you something in exchange.” she said. “If you’re looking for the treasure, there are twelve letters to find.”

That was very useful. I had assumed that since I had one letter, that everyone else had one, too. Eleven of us. So there was an extra letter.

– “You still don’t want to trade letters.” I asked.

– “Not yet, Colin. I still don’t know whose side you’re on. But if I want to trade, I’ll find you.”

Both of us were caught by surprise when we heard the bell ring. Four times.

– “That was an hour?” I said.

– “An hour well spent.” said Sheila. She gave me a kiss on the cheek. Then we went off to our next stations. I was supposed to be in the crow’s nest – the deck outside the kitchen, overlooking the patio.





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The Beach House – Chapter 7

“Well, it is a new kitchen. Monica stocked it all, and I don’t know where anything is yet.” I added a stupid smile to try and cover my ignorance.

“The same Monica who told me that if I didn’t detox, I would go to jail?” Mia seemed truly intrigued by the web of Monica.

“Yep, and told me to help you detox or she wouldn’t speak to me again.” I didn’t think before I spoke. I regretted my statement immediately and turned to Mia in attempt to rephrase.

“So you love this Monica?” What? Where did that come from?

“No! Absolutely not! We don’t even like each other.” I kind of blurted it out quickly. I didn’t want anyone thinking I had any romantic desires for Monica.

“So why would you agree to help me?” She seemed intrigued as well as a bit agitated.

“She does things for me.” I felt a bit nervous. I was screwing things up again. “I’m not good with people, so I pay her to take care of things.” I pointed around the house. “All of this she did in three weeks.” Saying it out loud sounded a bit ludicrous. I fell back to the truth and quietly added, “I’m glad she made me do it.” Mia looked at me funny.

“You’re glad she made you clean up my puke?” Mia was incredulous. I should never have opened my mouth. Why can’t I ever think before I speak to other people? I couldn’t look her in the eyes, so I looked at the floor.

“I’d do it again if it meant you would sit with me on the beach again.” God, it sounded pathetic. I was pathetic. I heard a gasp and expected the worse. I wasn’t going to hide from it this time. I lifted my head and Mia had a hand over her mouth. She had a strained look in her eyes. I guess she thought it was pathetic too. She shook her head and ran to the hall bathroom.

The retching started immediately followed by coughing and crying. She was in pain, and I felt it. I didn’t make the pancakes fast enough. I ran to the bathroom with no idea what I was going to do about it. Her entire body went into convulsions each time she tried to throw up. Hardly anything was coming out, and you could see the pain in her eyes. There was nothing I could do. I sat down next to her and pulled her hair out of the toilet. I spent the next fifteen minutes trying not to cry.

Mia finally pulled back from the rim of the toilet wincing in pain. “God, that hurt!” There were tears down her face, and her eyes looked like they had just been punched. I grabbed a washcloth and soaked it with warm water. I sat back down and began to wipe her face clean. “I like you too, Dale.” She gave me a weak smile. Her eyes were completely bloodshot and underlined by dark moons, her nose was bright red and runny, and she was pale as a ghost. She was the most beautiful woman I had ever met. I hugged her to me.

I finally got some water into her. I had her wrapped up in a blanket against me on the couch as another bout of shivering ran through her whole body. As I held her, I wondered how she broke through my walls. I stroked her hair and couldn’t understand why I wanted to help her. I never wanted to help anyone before. I knew it wasn’t because she saved my life, and it wasn’t because of Monica’s threats. I wanted her pain to go away. It hurt me to watch her. I ran my hand down her arm and saw the history of self abuse. Little bruised needle marks trying to heal. I didn’t understand why I didn’t find her appalling. I wondered if she would stay after she was better. A little fear began to fester. I shoved it aside. I knew where fear would lead. I would prefer that she left me than to shut her out again.

The night was long. I held Mia when she needed it and gave her space when she needed it. I always came back. She barely slept. Wave after wave of awfulness tore through her body. I cried when she wasn’t looking. I have never seen anyone in such misery. She finally passed out around eight in the morning. I covered her and left her to sleep. I was so happy that it she was out of pain for the moment. I wasn’t sure how much more she could take.

I was just pouring a cup of coffee when the doorbell rang. I opened the door to Dr. Williams. “Good morning, Doc,” I said with a smile. Normally, a morning visitor would piss me off. “Got some fresh coffee on. Like a cup?”

“You’re looking a bit more chipper than I expected. And yes, I would like one. Black.” Wally smiled back and headed into the house. “How’s Mia?”

“She’s been sleeping for about an hour. She had a rough night, but we got through it.” I poured him a cup of joe and handed it across the counter. He grabbed the cup and looked at me strangely.

“I’ve got to say, Mr. Tomlinson…” I quickly held up my hand and interrupted.

“Please… Call me Dale.” I’d never done that before. It just seemed the right thing to do, and it made me feel good.

“Well Dale, I have a really good idea of what happened in the last 24 hours.” He was examining my face as I took another sip of coffee. “I expected you to be a bit more frazzled. In fact I was surprised when I didn’t get a phone call last night.” I smiled. I didn’t think I could explain it to him.

“I don’t know how to explain it. We kind of got into a rhythm.” I took another sip of coffee. For some reason, it tasted better than usual. “I think I actually helped make it less horrible.” I smiled at the thought. That is exactly what I did.

“You’d make a hell of a nurse.” He nodded his head to me as he took another sip. I wondered if he thought the coffee was good. “Not many people are built to handle a detox.” I smiled inwardly at the compliment. He chuckled a bit, “I think that Monica thought it was going to be a bit tougher on you.” Now, that made me smile outwardly!

“Who knew? Yesterday, I would have agreed with her.” No need to hide the fact that this was new to me also. I actually enjoyed surprising the doctor as much as myself. I hoped secretly that he would convey his thoughts to Monica as well. Wally pulled a pill bottle out of his pocket and laid it on the counter.

“Sometime today or tomorrow, the violent symptoms will cease.” His voice slipped into a clinical tone. “As soon as Mia can hold down food, she needs to start taking these vitamins.” he was gesturing to the bottle. “They should help rebuild her a bit quicker. The detox has a tendency to zap the body pretty hard.” His expression became more serious, and he made sure he had my attention. “Dale, the next part is a bit harder.” I didn’t like the sound of that.

“Detox will lower her tolerance for heroin. It is extremely important that she not begin using again.” He again made sure he had my attention. “Mia could easily overdose if she went back to her old patterns.” Fuck! That wasn’t at all a pleasant thought. I didn’t even think someone would consider reuse after what I saw yesterday.

“You are going to have to find out why she started using and ended up driving that boat into the rocks.” He was very serious, and I didn’t like what he was implying.

“She was just stoned and lost control of the boat.” I was trying to defend Mia. There is no way she meant to hit the rocks. His face became more sympathetic.

“Heroin doesn’t remove all your inhibitions. It doesn’t suddenly make you stupid. It removes the pain of life.” He was having trouble explaining. “She meant to hit those rocks, and she didn’t expect to survive it.” Oh God! I didn’t want to hear this. Somehow I envisioned the heroin was some kind of accident that got out of hand. It was a much better history than what he was proposing.

“We have to find out why she did it.” I was looking down at my coffee cup. I wasn’t sure I wanted him to continue. “She is not going to want to tell you.” I remembered the pain when she told me to “get the fuck out!” I would take the puking any day over that. “If she doesn’t face her demons, her future is not good. We have to heal both her body and her mind.” I looked up from my cup, and I knew my eyes were watering and my hands were shaking. His expression quickly changed.

“Oh shit! I didn’t realize,” Wally continued in a softer tone. “I can bring in a professional to get her through this. This can get pretty painful, and feelings get hurt during the process.” He looked at me with sorrowful expression. “It’s normal that you would feel a bond with your patient, but it’s rarely healthy if you let it go too far.” Suddenly I was pissed. That he would insinuate that my concern was some kind of normal bonding process that should be ignored. Mia wasn’t just my patient. She was as much my nurse as I was hers.

“Mia and I are two sorry fucked-up individuals.” I didn’t care how it sounded. Wally looked shocked at my statement. “We will get through this together and we don’t need any psychiatrist screwing things up.” I was looking him straight in the face. In the past, I would have left the room instead of entering into a confrontation. Not now, not with Mia at stake.

“Dale, I don’t think…” Wally was interrupted by a weak voice from the hallway.

“You heard him Doc.” It was Mia, dressed in my robe and pale as ever, leaning against the wall. She was looking at me. “I’m not going through this with anyone but Dale.” Her smile was weak, but it felt like an ocean of waves. Wally looked between Mia and me a couple of times and sighed.

“Okay. If you two are still friends after this, I will eat my hat.” He realized he couldn’t stop it. “I would still like to drop in and monitor your physical recovery Mia.” I still couldn’t believe she backed me up. In public. I answered for her.

“That would be great Doc. I would hate for her to be sick any longer than necessary.” I realized I was still staring at Mia’s smile and quickly returned to looking at Wally. He was shaking his head, wearing a smile.

“Not what I expected at all.” He chuckled and held his hand out to me. I shook it and winked at Mia. “I’ll be back in two days to give you a physical, Mia.” She gave him a weak wave. I showed him out the door. I gathered Mia in my arms.

“I was hoping you would sleep a bit longer.” I whispered to her. She still looked weak.

“I got your back baby.” I know she tried to sound strong, but it just kind of trickled out. So adorable. I brought her back to bed. She surprised me by dropping the robe before climbing naked into the bed. I felt guilty admiring her curves as I pulled the covers over her naked form. “I am so tired… Just can’t seem to stay asleep.” She yawned as she said it.

“Be right back.” I said and for some reason I kissed her forehead. It was cold and clammy but very soft. I headed to my office library room or at least what I envisioned Monica thought it should be. I looked across the shelves and picked up my 25-year-old copy of The Hobbit. Sitting on the desk was the book I was reading the day Mia saved my life. I knocked it into the trash. I was sick of my old rules and the book really sucked.

I pulled a chair up next to Mia. I sat and propped my legs up on the edge of the bed. I opened the book and began to read. I always loved The Hobbit and the trilogy that followed. A story of the small and meek defeating evil and changing the course of all for the better. It got me through some pretty tough times. I wasn’t sure it would suit Mia’s literary taste. I just figured her mind needed to rest. I would read, and she only had to listen. I looked over between paragraphs. Her eyes were closed, but she was wearing a smile. I could tell she was still awake. I continued reading.

By the time I got to the second chapter, Mia was out cold. Her head had tilted to one side, and her mouth had a little drool hanging on for dear life. I closed the book and watched her for a few minutes before my head drooped down and I joined her in dreamland.


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The Beach House – Chapter 6

When I awoke my front was drenched in sweat. Mia was burning up. She had detached from me and rid the bed of its blankets. The withdrawal process was like a roller coaster that won’t let you off. “Make it stop! Please make it stop!” She was more moaning the talking. God, I wanted to make it stop. It was beginning to hurt me to look at her. It was hard watching her suffer. I jumped out of bed and grabbed the bucket. I refilled it with cool water and snatched another towel.

“I’m so sorry Mia.” I don’t know why I was sorry, but I was. I began wiping her down with the cool water. Her whole body was on fire, so this time I didn’t stop at her belly and I continued down her thighs and calves. “I wish you didn’t have to go through this.” I realized that I truly meant what I said. No one should suffer like this. I moved back to her forehead and applied the end of the damp towel as a compress. As an afterthought, I lightly blew on her newly wet chest and belly which caused a shiver to run down her body. Some of those adorable goose bumps reappeared for a moment. She was still hot.

I ran to the kitchen, grabbed a small hand towel, and filled it with ice. I almost headed back before I remembered my grandmother wetting the towel before putting the ice pack on my head when I was sick. I duplicated her system and quickly headed back to the bedroom. Mia was moaning when I sat next to her and replaced the wet towel with the new ice pack. “Shhh, the doctor says it will all be over soon.” I stroked her hair even though it was now heavily knotted and still had remnants of the early bout of vomiting. I didn’t care, I just wanted her to feel better.

I lightly caressed her face and hair until the ice melted. I debated getting more since she seemed to be cooling down. “Oh! Oh!” she moaned and slowly raised herself to a sitting position holding her stomach. I braced for another round of vomit. She continued to carefully raise herself off the bed and brushed off my help. Half bent over, she slowly worked her way to the bathroom and closed the door before I could follow. The sounds that followed were obviously not associated with throwing up. I remembered the doctor’s statement about dehydration, and I left to get some ice water. I returned, and Mia wasn’t done yet. Poor girl! I felt so bad for her.

The sheets were soaked with sweat and water. I guessed it would be a good time to change them. I set the water down on the nightstand and stripped the bed. I remade the bed with fresh sheets, then sat and waited. It wasn’t long before I heard the toilet flush. It was followed a moment later by the shower starting. I waited. After twenty minutes I knocked on the door and didn’t receive an answer. The door wasn’t locked so I opened it, calling her name. When she didn’t respond, I entered and saw her sitting on the floor of the shower hugging her knees.

“Mia, the doctor said I need to keep you hydrated.” I brought my volume up above the waterfall.

“Get the fuck out!” she screamed at me. It didn’t leave room for debate. I left quickly and quietly closed the door. Memories of high school flashed through my mind. I really hate other people. I left the bedroom and ran down to the beach. I would have to find a replacement for Monica. I couldn’t deal with this anymore.

I sat on the lounger and listened to the ocean. It was calm and repetitive, and it washed away the world. I could think more clearly. I had many lawyers who had other wealthy clients. They must know of people who knew how to handle things. I could call them and they could find the next Monica. I felt I had a solid plan of action. If I just sit here long enough, Mia would just leave, and I would find a replacement for Monica. Then everything would be back to normal. I lay back with a smile on my face and let the waves drone on. After a while, the sun forced me to shift the umbrella. Why hadn’t I researched that automatic umbrella yet?

“I’m sorry.” The voice was weak. I turned to see a pale Mia with wet hair. She was wrapped in my robe. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“What makes you think I’m hurt?” My defenses were up. I wasn’t going to ever admit that she got to me. If you admit it, they just pile it on. She sat on the sand next to the lounger.

“You didn’t come back.” She was looking up at me. I wasn’t biting, so I looked back at the ocean and she continued, “I was thinking of things I didn’t want to remember. They wouldn’t leave my head, and I kind of lashed out at you.” She looked out at the ocean with me. “I not very good with people these days.” I wasn’t expecting that. I felt a little out-of-place and didn’t know how to respond, so I resorted to something I rarely did. I told the truth.

“I have never been good with people.” My eyes never left the ocean. I was ready for her to recognize my weakness and beat me over the head with it. It was the biggest risk I had ever taken with someone other than my Grandma. I felt naked. She leaned over and gently laid her head along my thigh.

“We are two fucked-up individuals.” Her eyes never left the ocean. I moved my hand to her long black hair and began untangling it gently with my fingers. I couldn’t believe the truth was the right thing to say. We sat that way for a long time. “This is really nice… so peaceful.” She was still looking out and listening to the waves.

“I come here to hide away from the world.” She might as well know it all. She turned her body around and faced me.

“I can’t think of nicer place to hide away.” She cocked her elbow across my knee and used it as pillow. “You would’ve made a hell of a nurse. Not many people could have handled today.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t come back.” I realized I was very sorry I made that mistake. I didn’t want her to think less of me. I was feeling a bit wimpy and I wanted to be stronger.

“We are two sorry fucked-up individuals.” She smiled. I smiled back. “If my memory serves me correctly, this is just the calm before another storm. I better get something in my stomach so it doesn’t hurt to bad.” I stood up out of the chair and helped Mia up.

“You’ve done this before?” She was still looking a bit weak. I kept her hand once she was standing.

“Seen it before. I was an RN in another life.” She gripped my hand a little tighter and used me to steady her walking a bit. My survival now made a bit more sense. I had a strong desire to know more, but I didn’t think it was the right time. She leaned against me as we walked back up to the house. It felt nice, sort of like the waves only a bit better.

“What would you like to eat?” I asked as we entered the kitchen.

“Truthfully? Nothing,” she said as she sat on the counter stool. “But I better try to get something down. Bread, maybe?” She didn’t look too excited about the proposition. I began rummaging through the cabinets and pantry looking for bread-like items. I found crackers, pancake mix, corn bread mix, and various muffin mixes. No bread.

“Pancakes okay?” It looked like they would be least invasive of the choices.

“Sure!, No syrup for me, though. Don’t think I could handle the sugar.” She was developing circles under her eyes. I wondered if she had slept at all last night. I grabbed the pancake mix and spent a few minutes trying to find a measuring cup and mixing spoon to go with a bowl. “You don’t cook much do you?” She had been studying my assembly.


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Another Life – Chapter 13

I had another problem, which was occupying most of my attention.


The big question was ‘Could I treat her as my girlfriend?’. Back in our day, the terms ‘friends with benefits’, or ‘fuck buddies’ were unknown.

I had her over, to see the new apartment. We christened my new bed, in fine style. Sam was passionate, and apparently happy as I was. She spread her legs wide, and then wrapped them around me as I drove my length into her.

Without a car, the only way I could get her home was by bus. I wasn’t about to send her alone, late at night. That meant a 25-30 minute ride back to her house – after which I would have to wait for another bus back downtown. In total, it could take me over 1 1/2 hours to see her home.

Much easier, then, to have her stay over. She was 21, now. Her mother made no fuss if Sam said she was staying at a friend’s. That way, she could sleep with me in my new bed. That meant going through several condoms, because I found it difficult to have a naked Sam in my bed, if I wasn’t able to fuck her repeatedly.

There was nothing wrong with the springs on my bed, and I didn’t have a headboard, so I don’t think that we kept any of my roommates awake.

My problems began in the morning, when we went into the kitchen.

The moment she saw Ron, or Laurie, or even Rose, Sam would immediately switch to complete idiot mode. She would giggle, and say the most incredibly stupid things.

– “Are those real?” she asked Rose, pointing to her enormous boobs.

I apologized for that one, later. But I couldn’t use the excuse of bad pills every time.

Sam apologized, too. She knew that she was crossing lines – almost every single time. She just didn’t seem able to stop.

I took her out on a couple of occasions, even though the bus was still an issue. I only went out with her if it was the two of us – alone. Sam also invited me to her house – her sisters knew about us, so it was no big secret anymore.

I went – big mistake. It was nice to see Tanya, I suppose. She was quick-witted, and fun to banter with. But Sam was a silly, giggling mess. She tried to use me as a weapon in the competition with her sisters. It was pretty awful.

One night, we were out together, alone. We walked around the lake, stopping for coffees. She was perfectly relaxed with me. No giggling, no stupid remarks. I couldn’t understand the difference. It was like night and day.

– “I know.” she admitted. “I can’t explain it. Maybe it’s just …”

– “Just what?”

– “Well … you’re so much nicer to me than anybody else has ever been.”



College was a whole lot harder than I’d expected. It was difficult – painful, even, at times – to sit behind a desk again and listen to hour after hour of bullshit. Accounting was different: practical, but mind-numbing.

On the other hand, college was a whole lot easier than I’d expected. The tests weren’t very challenging. Most of the assignments were just time-consuming, rather than difficult. Uncle Ray gave me all the part-time hours I wanted – as long as I kept ahead of homework and assignments.

The best part of that first semester, by far, was meeting Eli. He was a funny guy, with a refreshingly unique outlook.

– “My policy is simple: complete, brutal honesty, to the point of absurdity.” he said.

He walked up to the hottest girl in our class, and told her – point blank: “I’d really like to have sex with you.”

It worked about as well as you might expect. Eli was undeterred. “One day, I’ll meet a woman who appreciates honesty. Total honesty.”

– “Good luck with that.” I said.

We bonded over a few pints at the Lion. A few days later, we bonded again. It was easy to hang out with Eli. He only played one game: the truth – no matter what kind of trouble it got him into.

– “Eli – when was the last time you had a girlfriend?” I had to ask, after watching his direct approach fail again – spectacularly.

– “Define ‘girlfriend’.” he said. “Do you have one?”

Touche. I was still stuck in some kind of no-man’s land with Sam. “It’s complicated.” I said. “She’s not my girlfriend, exactly – but she’s not not my girlfriend, either.”

– “Wow.” said Eli. “That’s quite the situation. I see your problem.”

– “You do?”

– “Yeah – you’re an asshole.”

– “Thanks, Eli.”

– “Tell her the truth, Joe. What else can you do?”




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Murder Mystery Weekend – Chapter 14

Just then I saw Lena come out onto the patio. She looked around rather hesitantly. Mindful of Teresa’s request, I decided to be polite.

– “Your costume is wonderful.” I said. “You look very exotic.” From the expression on her face, I don’t think she understood me. Keep it simple, stupid, I reminded myself. There was no internet service at the cottage, or I might have tried to find an online English-Slovenian dictionary. Lena was smiling at me tentatively, a drink in one hand, and a piece of paper in the other.

– “Why do you have a paper?” I asked her.

– “Ah. My instructions.” she said.

– “Really? You must be the only one who still has them. Did Teresa forget to take them from you?”

Lena shook her head. “No. Teresa give them to me.” She showed me the paper. I needn’t have worried about sneaking a peek at her secrets; they were written in Slovenian. I think.

– “What does your language sound like, Lena? Can you say something for me?”

– “What I should say?” she asked.

– “Anything. Read me your instructions – I won’t understand anything, anyway.”

Lena smiled, and started reading. It was quite funny, really. Lena read slowly, and enunciated very clearly, as if there was a chance that I might understand. I did catch ‘piratsko’ more than once – but that was about it. She did have a lovely voice, though. And while I watched her, I decided that her face was quite beautiful. But she was so damned tall!

I excused myself a few minutes later, and went inside to get a couple of beers. I ran into Craig coming up the stairs, with a beer in each hand. On impulse, I gave him the pirate recognition signal. His face lit up. Craig tucked one of the beer bottles under his arm, and placed three fingers against his earlobe. Only then did he look around to see if anyone was observing us.

– “You too?” he asked. Then he lowered his voice to a whisper. “You here to rescue Redbeard?”

I wasn’t expecting that, but I responded fairly quickly. “Depends. Nice to know I’m not alone. But we’ll need some weapons to pull it off.”

– “You’re right.” he agreed. “I’ll let you know if I come across any. You’ll do the same?”

– “Absolutely.” I said. Nice to know. Unless Craig was a far more accomplished liar than he appeared to be, he had just told me that he didn’t have a weapon.

I returned to the patio and handed Leo a beer. Teresa was there.

– “Colin, could you do me a favor?” she asked. “Would you go downstairs for me? There’s a red cooler down there, next to the pool table. Could you fill it with beer, and some of those vodka drinks? There are a couple of bags of ice in the freezer. It’ll be more convenient to have some of the drinks up here.”

– “As you wish.”

I picked up the cooler and headed back in. I was just beginning to go down the stairs when Eliza appeared at the foot of the staircase, with a bottle of wine in each hand.. I backed up, and told her to come ahead. There was no way I was going to be able to pass her on the stairs with this cooler.

I will admit that I looked down her blouse as she came up. Mother of Mercy … I was going to need to put some of the ice in my pants, to reduce the swelling.

We ate a great meal out on the patio, and admired each other’s costumes. The conversation and the booze flowed freely. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. When we were finished eating, Teresa assigned galley duty to Ben, Sheila, Eric and Claire – they had to clean up and do the dishes. We would all get a turn or two, so no one complained.




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